A 47-year-old man in the Netherlands who takes thousands of digital photos per week and spends a lot of hours each day organising the photos on his computer may have ‘digital hoarding disorder’, according to a recent case report.
Besides digital photos, the man also collects physical objects and has been diagnosed with compulsive hoarding, also referred to as hoarding disorder – a behaviour characterized by the unwillingness or inability or dispose of large quantities of objects.
In the case report – published October 8 in the journal BMJ Case Reports – the researchers wrote that the man’s hoarding habits take place mostly in the digital world where he stores tens of thousands of photos on his four hard drives, and his computer.
Dr. Martine van Bennekom, lead author of the report and a psychiatry resident at the Academic Medical Center in the Netherlands, said that although the man likes taking photos, the whole process of saving and storing the photos causes him a lot of distress and suffering.
Researchers believe that digital hoarding should in fact be categorized as a subtype of hoarding disorder, since it affects people’s lives in a negative way due to the fact that they are unable to let go of digital things. Doctors could then diagnose it and treat it as a mental health condition, Dr. van Bennekom said.
In the case report, the researchers state that if digital hoarding were to become an official disorder, it would be a lot easier for doctors to detect it.
However, not all mental health experts share the same opinion. David Tolin, a clinical psychologist and director of the anxiety disorders centre at the Connecticut mental health centre, The Institute of Living, thinks that it is too early to assume that digital hoarding a disorder, even more so as the current report is based on just one person who already has tactile hoarding disorder.
Tolin added that a lot of people have odd behaviours, but those behaviours do not have to automatically be categorized as disorders. However, he agrees with Dr. van Bennekom on that those who feel distressed and suffer because of their great amount of digital data are indeed hoarders.
Larry Rosen, a psychology professor at California State University, Dominguez Hills, said that the 47-year-old man in the recent case report was very much impaired by digital hoarding, but others may not be impaired by these types of behaviours.
According to Rosen, if you happen to have 7,000 unread e-mails but you actually could not care less about them, then you are definitely not a hoarder.
Image Source: The Daily Sheeple